Community Sponsorship groups are required to source accommodation that a refugee family can live in for 2 years. In many parts of the country, finding accommodation that the refugee family will be able to afford when receiving Universal Credit is a real challenge. At Reset, we’ve been looking at how groups source accommodation and what lessons other groups can learn from them.
We know that the drive and commitment necessary to make this a reality exists all over the country. But what use is drive and commitment when we’re in the midst of a housing crisis? Simply put, how can you resettle a refugee family in your community if there’s nowhere for them to live?
Perhaps surprisingly, Community Sponsorship groups are managing to find suitable housing even in the most expensive parts of the country, like London, Bristol and Oxford. At Reset, we decided to look into what types of housing these groups have sourced and what rates of rent they have secured in order to put together some recommendations for other groups that are struggling to find housing.
Every Community Sponsorship group is required to source sustainable accommodation that will be available to a refugee family for at least 2 years.
So far, there doesn’t appear to be one ‘Community Sponsorship way’ of sourcing accommodation. Groups are working with private landlords and housing associations. They’re renting from churches and buying their own properties – either as individuals or as group investment models. This speaks to the creativity of groups in navigating a difficult market.
There are some key things to note about these findings. Firstly, the use of private landlords is the most common way of sourcing accommodation. Importantly, this is actually the case in 8 of the 10 regions for which we have data. By contrast, the second most common way of sourcing accommodation is the use of Housing Associations, but the use of Housing Associations is heavily concentrated in one region. Outside of this region, groups have had little success in securing properties from Housing Associations. The key reason for this is simply the scale of the need for social housing in the UK. Housing Associations will typically have extremely long waiting lists of vulnerable people who all need a home. It’s not that they aren’t sympathetic to your cause, it’s simply that they can’t say yes to all the requests that come their way.
The next key thing to note is that it’s more common for private landlords not to be part of the group than to be group members. In roughly half of the cases where group members are landlords, the accommodation was purchased specifically for the purposes of Community Sponsorship. Sometimes this relies on there being one wealthy individual within the group, but groups have also explored group investment models such as through Hope into Action.
One way that groups tackle the issue of unaffordable housing is by ‘topping up’ the refugee family’s rent. At Reset, we’ve sometimes seen problems arise when groups take this route in terms of setting the expectation for what a family will be able to afford when your group is no longer topping up their rental payment (read our Top Up resource here) so we wanted to understand how often this is actually happening.
We found that around one third of groups are topping up the rent, which means that two thirds of groups have managed to find accommodation that the refugee family is able to afford from their Universal Credit payment each month.
We’ve already seen that using a private landlord is the most common way for groups to source housing. It’s particularly important to note that even in this sector the majority of groups are not paying top up. In fact, in the private rented sector in London more than 70% of groups aren’t paying top up!
It’s important to say here that groups aren’t tapping into a secret stock of cheap housing. Nor are they sourcing housing that is of poor quality (the housing that volunteers source is checked by your local authority and the police before it is approved for a refugee family to move in). Rather, groups are doing a very good job at finding landlords with a social conscience and convincing them to drop the rent for the refugee family for a period of two years. This is a really significant way that groups can advocate for refugee families before they’ve even arrived in the UK.
The more we know about how groups are finding properties, the more we can share best practice to help other groups. If you would like to help us build our knowledge, email us letting us know: